Sailing. What comes to mind when you hear that word? For some, it may be rich men in Dockers with too much money and time on their hands. For others, it's a sport that their passionate about. Well for me and many others, it's pirates, merchants, gold and wenches. Ah, those were the days. (I was a pirate in a former life...)
So what does this have to do about a game called Bounty? Well, everything! Bounty is a 2-8 player, ages 8 and up family game that is set in the golden age of pirates and merchant adventurers. "There are plenty of opportunities for trading, skullduggery, piracy on the high seas and sweet revenge!" Sounds like a winner to me!
The game play in Bounty is very easy, as I mentioned earlier. Each player takes a ship of a color of their choice (or from whatever is left) and a corresponding "cargo hold" tray of that same color. Everyone then starts at the same location on the board; Home Port. All players roll the 6-sided die to determine starting order. On your turn, roll the die again to see how many places you are able to move for the turn, and move up to that many spaces - but not diagonally, on a board that's broken up into 1-inch by 1-inch squares. Pretty simple, right?
Well, let me throw you a minor curve ball here. If you happen to roll a 1, you do not move one space - you have to draw a "Treasure Chest" card. Here's where the randomness of being out in the ocean takes place: Will you find treasure, or be struck with scurvy? Maybe it's repairs to your ship? Drunken sailor, eh? Well, loose your turn. Let me sum up the effects of the Treasure Chest cards: Gain gold, loose gold, re-roll the die, special movement, or loose a turn. I think that covers them all. This is one area that I can see people expanding on. I have many ideas on this myself...
The flip side of rolling a 1 is rolling the highest number - a 6. If you happen to roll a 6, not only do you get to move that many spaces, but you also get to roll again! If you are lucky enough to catch the right winds (roll another 6), then you move that many spaces and roll again! There is no limit on the number of times that you can do this. Hey, when the winds are in your favor, you can really sail! (Pardon the pun.)
Ok, so now you know how the ship moves and how random events are determined - but what else is there? Well, there's trading, combat, and piracy you scurvy dog!
Trading is the main process of the game. There are 7 ports that you can trade at. Trading works as follows: You anchor your ship in the desired port, pay the trading fee in doubloons, draw a random cargo card from that port's "cargo pack," then sail on. The more the trading fee, the better your chances of getting a higher-valued item to sell of when you get back to your home port. Beware, however, that you may not actually get an item to trade with your draw; you may draw a pirate card or the mighty warship card.
Piracy, Warships & Combat
If you draw the pirate card, you have the option of turning from a merchant into a pirate. The beauty of it is that no one knows that you are a pirate; until you attack, that is. Is the life of the pirate not the life for you? Well then - you can simply ignore the card and bury it at the next port (by buying another card there - if it's not another pirate card you loose the pirate option).
If the life of a pirate IS the life for you, then you will be on the lookout for an easy target: one of the other player's cargo. Since your turn to piracy is secret, players may not be aware of the change. However, if you make it clear by your actions, well then you may not get your chance to cash in on that fat ol' merchant ship as the other players will steer clear of you. But if you can proceed through the waters without revealing your new career choice, you can move into the same ocean space as an opponent or opponents then attack! However, once you reveal that you are a pirate, you cannot continue trading as before - you can only attack other ships or head to the Home Port to sell off all of your cargo and start off as a merchant once again - only richer.
When you attack, you opponent reveals what they are: Merchant, Pirate or Warship. Remember when I mentioned that you could draw a Warship card? Well, that card works almost the same way as the pirate. You don't actually take on the life of piracy like the pirate would; you actually get to fight known pirates or other known warships!
If a pirate attacks a Warship, the Warship player takes all of the pirate's cargo and the pirate player is no longer considered a pirate and can begin the legitimate life of a merchant once again.
If the pirate attacks another pirate, the fight begins. Both players roll the die three times each, and the player with the higher total from the three numbers rolled wins the combat! The looser is no longer a pirate, and may continue as an honest merchant once more, only poorer.
If the pirate attacks a merchant, then they take that player's cargo and place it under their cargo hold (so that their cargo cards are kept separate to determine what ports that the pirate has been to). An easy victory, right? Well, not exactly. The player who was plundered now has the option to sail to "Admiralty Island" where they can plead their case and become a Warship on a temporary basis. Now the race is on.
In the meantime, the pirate player has the option to continue plundering other ships (or attacking any other known pirates) or race home to sell their ill-gotten booty. However, if the pirate is caught by any warship (yes, even the temporary warship as a result from above) they loose all of their cargo. It's the perfect revenge! Pirate steals from you, you race to Admiralty Island to become a temporary warship, then catch the pirate! You get your cargo AND theirs! Ok, it may not be that easy, but you get the idea. However, if you become a temporary warship and the pirate that attacked you gets to the Home Port first, you loose your temporary warship status. Also, if you anchor in a port to trade, you loose this status as well.
Warships can attack other known warships. The combat system is the same as the one listed above for pirate-to-pirate combat. Note that you cannot attack any ship that's in a port. You can try to blockade a player in a port, but if they roll even numbers, they do not have to leave the port. Of course, if they rolled a 6, they'd have a good chance of outrunning you since they get to roll again. Will the winds be in your favor?
To win the game, you need to achieve a certain amount of doubloons in wealth. At the beginning of the game, the players decide on how much you need to gather in order to win. Want a short game? Play up to 100 doubloons. Want a longer game? How about 300 doubloons. Of course, the number of players will affect play time as well. Don't fret about the speed of play, though. Player turns go pretty fast since it's basically a "roll the die, move, done" turn order.
The pieces of Bounty are simplistic, but nice. However, one thing that caught my attention and the attention of others who played (or watched) was the doubloons! They are nice plastic doubloons in 1, 5 and 10 doubloon denominations. The 1's are copper-colored, the 5's are a shiny silver and the 10's are a golden gold. It's hard to explain, but for some reason these simple items really add to the flavor of the game! Nice work!
Here's a complete list of what you get when you purchase Bounty:
7 Cargo Packs of 12 cards.
24 Treasure Chest cards.
1 Temporary Warship card.
8 Ships and 8 cargo holds.
50 bronze, 25 silver and 25 gold doubloons.
1 board and 1 6-sided die.
The $35 dollar price is a little steep for Bounty, but is right around the current board game pricing. I wouldn't let the price deter you from at least trying the game or even buy it, however. Family gamers may find that they can take this out any time with any gamer or non-gamer to play. Serious gamers may enjoy it as is, but should be able to see the HUGE expandable possibilities that are abound in the game. (I plan on working some up and posting them here at the NGG site, so stay tuned for that!)
I know that I've mentioned the possibilities with expanding the game, but I don't want you to think that the game is boring as-is. Right out of the box it's a great family game and will still appeal to other gamer-types. However Bounty is a game of chance - just like the life out on the seas. If you are a strategy gamer that doesn't like leaving things to chance, then you will definitely want to work up some new rules and/or treasure cards right away to possibly limit the random-factor. But Bounty is built for modification. In the rulebook they encourage you to come up with your own rules, and even throw in an optional rule to boot! My brain is hurting with the possibilities of expanding the game!
I can't honestly rate this game less than a 4. I just love it. That may surprise some of my gaming peers, due to the exposure that I have with some very great "gamer" games out there that we play. Bounty is a great family game, but also can be a gamers game as is. Most gamers may find that creating new rules and such will make the game even better for their group. The expansion possibilities are endless! But in my heart of hearts, I can't stick with a 4. It' a solid 4, but with my love of the theme and that Canopus Consultancies did such a great job with it, I have to kick it up a notch. Bam! 4.25
Play Bounty for yourself to see if it's your kind of game. Family gamers or serious gamers that need a game to take out to play with the spouse or other non-gamer friends should find Bounty to be enjoyable - even addicting (in a good way, that is). Maybe you can even slide in some of your home-brew rules to add some spice to the game with these "non-gamers," if you think it's needed.
One complaint - Eye patch not included. Arrrgh!
So hoist that sail - tote that barge, etc., etc. There's adventure out there matey!